Judge stops search for deleted texts, emails on Speaker Vos' cellphone

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A Dane County judge has decided to stop searches on Assembly Speaker Robin Vos' cellphone for deleted texts and emails related to the ongoing election investigation.

The liberal watchdog group American Oversight filed an open records request for the messages tied to the Republican-ordered review of the 2020 presidential election led by Michael Gableman, a former State Supreme Court justice.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn determined there's no reason for additional searches on Vos' phone after an expert testified it would be difficult to locate deleted messages.

A cybersecurity expert, Sean Harrington, hired by Vos' attorney, testified in court it would be "unlikely" to find deleted texts and emails without even examining the phone.

"In my experience, based on the phones I've worked on over the years, I would consider it to be highly unlikely to find text messages from that long ago, or even two weeks ago," Harrington said.

The lawsuit requested deleted texts and emails on Vos' private Gmail account, along with two of his staffers'. While Bailey-Rihn stopped additional searches on all three cellphones in question, American Oversight did receive more than 10,000 emails from Vos' legislative email account.

Vos' attorney, Ronald Stadler, told the judge he turned over somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 deleted emails from Vos' state email account. Many of those are duplicates and some date back from 2010, Stadler said.

The attorney representing American Oversight, Christa Westerberg, said they received the emails Wednesday evening and have not had time to review them yet.

"Mr. Sadler sent us a number of documents that appear to be deleted records from state servers," Westerberg said. "There are some documents from the 2010s and a lot of duplicates, so it will take us some time to go through those."

This is one of three lawsuits filed by American Oversight seeking records related to Vos and Gableman's involvement in the taxpayer-funded election review.

In a separate case, Vos was found in contempt of court for failing to turn over additional documents that were deleted. Vos has until next week to locate them. If he doesn't, he will face a $1,000 fine per day until he does, according to the judge's order.

Gableman's investigation has gone on for months and it could go on much longer. One indication the review could continue is because Gableman's subpoenas compelling mayors and election officials to sit down behind closed doors for depositions are still being challenged in court.

The next court hearing is scheduled for July 11.

Gableman last month published a report encouraging lawmakers to decertify the 2020 election, a move that legal experts and Gableman's own attorney said is impossible.

Joe Biden was declared the winner in Wisconsin, defeating Trump by about 21,000 votes. Lawsuits, recounts and nonpartisan reviews have upheld the results.

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